All Fats Are Not Created Equal
Fats have had a bad reputation as the cause for chronic diseases and obesity. After all, it must be fat that makes us fat, right? Not so fast. In recent years, we have discovered that certain fats may actually be beneficial to our health and that we should eat more fat, not less.
Is Fat Bad for your Health?
The bottom line is no, fat is not bad for your health. Fats play an important role in regulating hormones, maintaining brain health, and in immune system function. But, there are several reasons why people believe that fat intake is the cause of disease.
First, fat is high in calories. It has 9 calories per gram as opposed to 4 grams in carbohydrates and protein. A low fat diet will frequently result in weight loss, simply due to eating fewer calories.1
But, when you cut back one macronutrient you have to increase your intake of others. Generally, a low fat diet results in eating more carbohydrates which can lead to weight gain. Many “fat free” foods simply replace the fat with additional sugar or salt. Also, fat helps us feel full and satisfied after a meal. It can prevent overeating in the long-run, helping with weight maintenance.
Fat has also been blamed as the main cause for heart disease. New research has found that there is no connection between fat intake and risk of heart disease. In fact, many fats, such as the omega-3 fats help lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes.2,3
Different Types of Fats
Fats are generally classified into four main categories, these are:
These are the healthiest types of fat, found to lower LDL cholesterol. Foods that are high in monounsaturated fats include: olive oil, nuts, and avocados.
Some polyunsaturated fats, like the omega-3 fats, are extremely healthy. Other polyunsaturated fats, like certain vegetable oils have been found to increase inflammation.4 Healthy polyunsaturated fats include fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts. Avoid processed oils such as vegetable and corn oils.
Saturated fats are found mostly in animal meat such as beef and pork, dairy products, and certain tropical oils, like coconut and palm oil. These have been traditionally the most demonized fats, but new research is finding that they might not be a cause of heart disease as originally thought.2The jury is still out on how much saturated fat should be included in our diets, for now the recommendation remains at no more than 10% of calories.
Trans fats are man-made fats designed to extend the shelf-life of packaged foods. They have been found to significantly increase inflammation and the risk of heart disease. Trans fats should always be avoided.
How to Add Healthy Fats to Your Diet
Just because fats might be beneficial doesn’t make it a free food. Due to the high calorie content of most fats, they should still be eaten in moderation. But, don’t be afraid of using full fat products instead of fat free. These will make you feel more satisfied after eating.
When cooking with fat, stick with healthy oils such as olive oil. Just a teaspoon is usually enough to help prevent foods from sticking. Nuts and avocados are great sources of monounsaturated fats and also make for tasty snacks. To boost your omega-3 intake eat fatty fish at least twice a week.
Adding a dose of healthy fats to your day can keep you satisfied with your meals and reduce your risk of many chronic diseases.
- Brit J of Nutr. 2000;83(S1):S25-S32.
- Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;91(3):535-46.
- JAMA. 2002;287(14):1815-1821.
- J of Lipid Res. 2012;53:2069-2080.
- Blog Contributor